Disclaimer: JE owns them. I do not. Songfic based on "Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx.

~oooOOOooo~

Right Here Waiting

~oOo~

Stephanie's POV
Eleven Months Earlier

"Babe? Wake up, Stephanie."

I was pulled out of a sound sleep by Ranger's soft, hurried words.

"Ranger? What's wrong? What time is it?"

"It's about three o'clock. I just got called in, Babe. I have to leave in five minutes. I finished packing and wanted to wake you up and say goodbye before I had to go."

I'd been with Ranger long enough now that I knew there was no point in whining about him going. All I could do was hide my pain and send him away, showing him that I was strong and he didn't have to worry about me.

"Can you tell me anything?" I whispered, holding his hands and looking deeply into his love-filled eyes.

"Overseas, that's about all I can say for now. I should be able to call you, although maybe not regularly. I'll try to call as often as is safe. I may be gone awhile, Babe. Please, stay here on seven and stay safe. I don't worry as much when I know you're safe."

"Of course, Ranger. I'll be here waiting for you, no matter how long it takes. I love you so much!" I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him tight against me.

"I love you, too, querida." His whispered words touched my heart and soul.

We held each other until his phone beeped. "Time for me to go, Babe." He gave me one last squeeze and then let me go. Standing up, he grabbed his bag and started to leave the room.

"Don't get shot," I called softly as he reached the doorway.

He turned and smiled a full thousand-watt smile. "Don't go crazy. Love you, Babe." Then he was gone.

I waited until the door closed behind him before breaking down and letting my fear consume me until I fell asleep.

~oOo~

Oceans apart day after day
And I slowly go insane
I hear your voice on the line
But it doesn't stop the pain

If I see you next to never
How can we say forever

Wherever you go
Whatever you do
I will be right here waiting for you
Whatever it takes
Or how my heart breaks
I will be right here waiting for you

~oOo~

Six Months Earlier

I was sitting in Ranger's office, working on searches, when Tank buzzed. "Steph, Ranger's on the phone for a check-in and wanted to say hi. Come quick... He doesn't have a lot of time."

I jumped up and ran down the hall to Tank's office.

Tank stood up from behind his desk and picked up the receiver, hitting the button to take it off speakerphone. "Here she is, Boss. Talk to you again soon. Watch your six."

I took the phone and watched Tank, Lester, and Bobby file out of the room, closing the door behind them to give me a bit of privacy. "Ranger?"

His weary voice replied, "Babe."

"How are you?" It had been a month since I'd spoken with him last, although he'd been checking in weekly with his superiors, so we'd known he was all right as of last week.

"I'm okay, Babe. I miss you. The guys said you're doing well, but I wanted to hear it from you."

I smiled. "I'm doing okay. I miss you, too. I miss all the little things I didn't realize I'd miss. Our morning ritual, having you with me at my parents' house for dinner, holding hands while we watch a movie."

"I miss those things, too, Babe. Is your mom giving you a hard time?"

Chuckling, I said, "No, actually, she's been pretty decent. She knows she won't convince me to go back to Joe, even with you gone, so instead, she decided to try to be supportive. It's new for her, but she's doing well with it. It helps that I drag one of the guys with me each week, I think."

He laughed. "Good, I'm glad. Lean on them all you need to, Steph. They all love you almost as much as I do."

I was quiet for a minute before asking, "Any news on when you'll be able to come home?"

"Not yet, I'm afraid. Things are still crazy over here. I'm staying safe, though." Suddenly, the phone was muffled, and I could hear Ranger and another man talking in the background. "Babe, I need to go. Sounds like someone spotted one of our targets a few miles from here, so maybe we'll get lucky and round up one more before tonight."

"Okay. Be careful! I'm going crazy without you, but I'll be here waiting for you, no matter how long it takes."

"I love you, Stephanie. Don't ever forget that."

He hung up and I felt my heart clench, the tears I'd been holding back finally running down my cheeks.

~oOo~

I took for granted, all the times
That I thought would last somehow
I hear the laughter, I taste the tears
But I can't get near you now

Oh, can't you see it baby
You've got me goin' crazy

Wherever you go
Whatever you do
I will be right here waiting for you
Whatever it takes
Or how my heart breaks
I will be right here waiting for you

~oOo~

One Week Earlier

Ella knocked on the door to the apartment before letting herself in. "Hello, Stephanie dear. I have dinner for you. I know you may not feel like eating, but you need to keep your strength up. When Carlos comes home, he'll need you to be strong for him."

I lifted my head from the pillow I'd been lying on. The TV was on, but I hadn't heard anything from it in hours. My thoughts had been centered on the fact that Ranger had missed his last check-in and no one was sure where he was or if he was all right.

"Thanks, Ella. Just set it on the counter. I'll get up and eat in a few minutes."

She came over to me after setting the dishes on the counter. Sitting down at the end of the couch by my head, she pulled the pillow up, lifting my head, and scooted down a bit so she could rest the pillow and my head in her lap. Her hand began rubbing my hair soothingly.

"Carlos will be okay, sobrina. My nephew is a strong man. More than that, he's a smart man. He knows how to take care of himself. You need to show him that you are a strong and smart woman who knows how to take care of herself, as well."

We were quiet for a few minutes, her presence and gestures comforting me until she needed to leave to get some dinner ready for the guys coming on shift.

She slipped out from under my head, adjusting the pillow so I was comfortable, before quietly walking out the door.

~oOo~

I wonder how we can survive
This romance
But in the end if I'm with you
I'll take the chance

Oh, can't you see it baby
You've got me goin' crazy

Wherever you go
Whatever you do
I will be right here waiting for you
Whatever it takes
Or how my heart breaks
I will be right here waiting for you

~oOo~

Present

I was sound asleep in the middle of the large bed in Ranger's apartment. I wasn't sure what had woken me, but I felt something that made my stomach do flips. I squeezed my eyes closed, not even daring to breathe for fear I would be wrong or the feeling would go away. The back of my neck was tingling and the hairs stood on end.

After two minutes, I heard the one word that would mean everything to me for the rest of my life.

"Babe."